Darwin’s east coast expeditions

Conrad Martens' sketch of scenery near Montevideo, 1833. CUL MS.Add. 7983, f. 19

Docking at Rio again in the summer of 1832, Darwin was able to spend two whole months on land, exploring the Corcovado mountains and happily absorbed in collecting specimens, particularly of spiders and wasps. In April 1833 he mounted another long inland expedition, adding larger specimens of birds, animals and reptiles to his collection. His ambitions had outgrown what he could do alone, and he hired a member of the ship’s crew, Syms Covington, as combined personal servant and research assistant. When the Beagle sailed south in July, Darwin and Covington spent the rest of the year in a series of long cross-country expeditions, rejoining the ship at intervals. Darwin wrote home: ‘I am become quite a Gaucho, drink my Mattee & smoke my cigar, & then lie down & sleep as comfortably with the Heavens for a Canopy as in a feather bed. – It is such a fine healthy life, on horse back all day, eating nothing but meat, & sleeping in a bracing air, one awakes as fresh as a lark.